Congressmen meet with property owners

Two U.S. representatives recently met with more than 60 Grantwood Village residents whose property was taken to help create Grant’s Trail.

U.S. Reps. Todd Akin, R-St. Louis County, and Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis, conducted the Sept. 13 town-hall meeting at the Grantwood Village City Hall to discuss the Trails Act Technical Correction Act of 2007 that they have introduced.

The National Trails System Act was created by Congress to set up a system whereby rail lines could be converted into recreational trails while still preserving the right of way for future rail use.

Under the law, before a rail-line operator can abandon a line, a trail operator has an opportunity to negotiate with the rail operator to convert the line to a trail. If no trail-use agreement is reached, the property occupied by the line reverts back to the property owners.

To date, the Trails Act has allowed for the development of almost 1,500 recreational trails nationwide.

The legislation introduced by Akin and Carnahan seeks to overturn a 2005 court decision that has denied property owners compensation for the taking of their land, increased the government’s financial and legal liability and could hamper additional Rails-to-Trails development projects, according to a news release.

Because the 2005 court ruling was en-forced retroactively, at least 100 property owners whose land was taken for Grant’s Trail will receive nothing, the release stated. A federal judge already had ruled that they were entitled to compensation and they already had reached a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice that would have provided for the payment of compensation.

The technical bill, which also is sponsored by U.S. Reps. Lacy Clay, Jo Ann Emerson and Sam Graves, clarifies the amount of time landowners have to file a claim for compensation, but makes no substantive changes to the Rail-to-Trails program, according to the release.